Reading, student choice

How to Confer About A Book – Even if You Haven’t Read It

As I continue to sift through my notes from my week at Teacher’s College there are so many ideas I want to share with those who have not had the chance to go.  So although these are not my ideas, they are definitely some that have made me think and I know will help me in the coming year as I focus on bettering my readers workshop.   After all, let’s face it, I read a lot of book, but I will never be able to read all of the books my students bring into the classroom, and that is a great thing.  That does not mean though that we cannot confer with them about their book and still have a quality discussion and exploration.

First a few notes on conferring the better way:

  • Know that it is okay to read the blurb on the back!
  • This is part of the child’s reading journey and should be treated as something sacred.  Make sure you have ample time and energy to do it right rather than feeling rushed or unfocused.
  • Make sure you give clear and achievable feedback, preferably in a concise manner.
3 directions you can take:
  1. Confer about reading behaviors.
    • This can be a discussion about how the child is as a reader.  What is their rate of devouring books?  How are they with distractions?  What is their reading plan?  Which books can they not wait to get their hands on?  Fluency and expression can also be discussed here.
  2. Confer about the book.
    • Have them work on retelling the story.  Have them discuss the main character and how that main character is developing.  Other things they can discuss are the problems, the motivations, the author’s purpose, and even what big ideas they are having about the texts.
  3. Confer about skills.
    • This can be a discussion of past mini lessons you have taught and how they are using them.
    • Push for a second line of inquiry.  So if a child brings up one aspect, push them for one more place or one more aspect to show how they know this of the text.
    • Or you can use this incredible cheat sheet for Bands of Text Level  (courtesy of Teachers College) – research shows that texts that seem to be at the same level also share many of the same characteristics, so while you may not have read that particular book, if you can figure out the complexity of the text you can ascertain many general traits that the particular book may have and base your discussion on that.  And while every book is not going to have these I found it interesting to think of how many books do have many of them.

There you have it.  While nothing beats being able to discuss the actual book with a child because you know it yourself, there will be times when I know these strategies will help me.  While I do not level my texts, I found it very interesting to see this breakdown of text complexity and how we can help students recognize how their text gets more complex.

In the end, this is about the child talking and you supporting them in their exploration.  I think I have too often rushed in with too many questions, too much of my own thoughts, to really make a child think about the text they are reading.  So treasure the one on one time you get with this child and their book and make sure they know just how much it means to you.  And then be quiet and listen.
image from icanread
I am a passionate 5th grade teacher in Middleton, Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “The Passionate Learner – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” will be released this fall from PLPress.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

3 thoughts on “How to Confer About A Book – Even if You Haven’t Read It”

  1. Thanks for this great tutorial. Remembering all these smart moves is always a challenge. I couldn't be at the institute, so your take away and well thought out share is a welcome replacement. Thank you for being a part of my PLN!

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